WASHINGTON – The Atlantic Coast and the eastern Gulf of Mexico will remain closed to offshore oil and gas drilling for now, in what is considered a major recalibration of the nation’s offshore drilling priorities after last spring’s catastrophic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday his department had “raised the bar in the drilling and production stages” since the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion. As the government continues to develop new, stricter safety and environmental standards, Salazar said, the administration will focus offshore drilling activity on areas that already are leased for drilling, rather than offer up new waters for exploration.

“It is consistent with developing our nation’s energy resources in the right ways and the right places,” Salazar said.

The revisions mean that the area in the eastern Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida now under a congressional moratorium — as well as the Atlantic Coast — remains closed to development through 2017, Salazar said.

The western and central Gulf will continue to be considered for lease sales. The Cook Inlet and the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in the Arctic also will be studied, but there are no planned lease sales there.

The Obama administration will continue to review the only pending project in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea, and it could proceed, but only after a re-evaluation of the safety procedures and environmental consequences, including spill response in the Arctic. Shell Oil’s planned exploratory wells in the shallow Arctic could go forward after a review of a proposed plan but only “with utmost caution,” Salazar said.

Wednesday’s announcement reverses much of the Obama administration’s original offshore-drilling schedule, which was announced last spring just weeks before the Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 people and fouled the Gulf of Mexico.

The original plan, seen as a concession to persuade recalcitrant oil-state lawmakers to consider climate change legislation, would have allowed new drilling off Virginia’s shoreline and portions of the Atlantic Seaboard. It also could have opened the door to exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

At the time, the White House also announced that it supported development of some oil and gas leases in Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast but that it wouldn’t allow drilling in the federal waters near Bristol Bay’s valuable fisheries.